It has been well documented over the past few weeks that Microsoft's Windows XP came to the end of its life cycle on 8 April 2014, meaning that Microsoft no longer supports systems that are still using this nearly 13-year-old operating system.
This is positive news for sales of business-targeted PCs through European distribution, especially desktops, as XP-replacement projects continue to help drive sales. However, what does it mean for the reported 30 per cent or more of SMBs that still continue to rely on this software and will no longer receive updates for XP Service Pack 3?
As anyone who has taken an interest in this long-forecast development is now aware, without the regular Microsoft updates a customer's system is far more vulnerable to viruses, spyware, malware and a range of other such nasties associated with cyberattacks.
This brings us to the crux of the issue: security. Can a system remain secure without the continued support of Microsoft? The simple answer is no; but then again, regardless of which OS you choose to use - Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 - there will always be an element of risk as it is unlikely that any system will ever be completely secure.
Leading security software brands have claimed that they will continue to provide robust security offerings that are compatible with XP, but the best course of action is to move away from XP and upgrade to a newer OS as soon as possible. Have SMBs taken heed?
When looking into the distribution data we can see that there has been a small increase of 5.6 per cent in unit sales of endpoint security products targeting SMBs, versus the opening month of the previous year. When focusing at territory level, we can see that the key countries driving the growth were the UK, with a positive year-on-year performance of 17.4 per cent, Spain with a 13.9 per cent increase in unit sales, and Germany with 4.4 per cent growth.
Chart above copyright Context 2014 - All rights reserved
It could be argued that with short-term finances a current focus, a smaller initial outlay on top-quality endpoint security, regardless of how ill advised, could be seen by non-IT-centric company executives as an alternative to an expensive but necessary system overhaul.
SMB-focused product families that have performed well through European distribution over the past year include Kaspersky's Endpoint Security for Business, Symantec's Endpoint Protection and Trend Micro's Worry-Free Business Security offering.
Kaspersky looks to be the front runner, and bar the odd blip, consistently claimed more than 20 per cent of the market throughout European distribution in 2013 and at the start of 2014. Its Endpoint Security for Business is showing steady upward sales. Deep-diving on that product family, we can see that the principal territory driving this is Germany, with the UK following closely behind.
Another question is whether or not SMBs are aware of the risks posed by the end of XP. Despite the aforementioned performance in European distribution of desktop PCs, which was versus relatively weak demand in some European territories last year and regular refreshes, the large number of companies still using XP suggests that SMBs throughout Europe are not overly aware, prepared or equipped to deal with the changes.
Is security software a viable SMB solution to combat the end of XP's support anyway? Absolutely not; but unless the company is in a position to pay big money for Microsoft to keep its systems protected or is willing to invest in its business infrastructure, it certainly wouldn't be doing itself any harm in having some.
Stephen Andrews is an enterprise analyst at Context
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